Boy Scouts Distort Black Membership

An independent investigation of the Atlanta-area Boy Scouts found that the organization inflated its number of black Scouts by more than 5,000 in a program for inner-city youth.

The executive director of the Atlanta Boy Scouts (search) resigned after the report was released.

The exact motivation for padding the numbers was not provided, but auditors said Scout officials assigned to inner-city areas may have felt pressure to demonstrate membership growth, which is a part of their performance evaluations. Membership numbers also are used to help determined funding from the United Way (search), a major Scouts donor.

The audit found that former Scouts too old to participate remained on the memberships lists and that boys who had only attended informational meetings about the program were signed up.

Edgar Sims Jr., an attorney with the law firm that conducted the audit, said the Atlanta Area Council claimed there were 10,238 Scouts in Operation First Class (search) in 2004, but the audit found that only 5,361 were registered.

Operation First Class was designed to increase participation by boys in the country's poorest areas, and it provides the boys' books, uniforms and other opportunities, including scholarships for camp.

In resigning, David Larkin, executive director of the Atlanta Area Council, said he was "deeply disappointed both personally and professionally" and took fully responsibility for the false records.

"As scout executive of the Atlanta Area Council, I am charged with overseeing all activities of the organization. When those activities do not reflect the principles and integrity of the Boy Scouts of America, at any level, I take full responsibility," he said.

Joe Beasley, regional director of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (search), claimed in October that the 13-county Boy Scouts council was reporting twice as many black participants as were actively involved.

Georgia Boy Scout officials then commissioned a law firm to independently investigate the complaint. Directors of Atlanta's United Way voted May 18 to withhold money for area Boy Scouts pending an investigation.

Similar allegations have been made in Alabama, where the FBI (search) is investigating whether the Birmingham-based Greater Alabama Boy Scout Council padded its membership rolls.